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Crackdown on Labour Activism Intensifies

In the first quarter of 2019, many of the Maoist students and activists at the centre of the Jasic struggle—including Yue Xin, Shen Mengyu, Gu Jiayue, Zheng Yongming, and He Pengchao—appeared in forced confession videos screened privately to student activists at Peking University. According to students who secretly recorded the audio, in the taped confessions the activists expressed regret for their beliefs and actions. The authorities hinted that those in the videos might soon go on trial. In a sign of widening repression, on 20 January five labour NGO activists—including prominent labour NGO leaders Wu Guijun and Zhang Zhiru—were arrested in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Changsha on charges of ‘gathering a crowd to disturb public order’ (see Lin’s op-ed in this issue). The five activists were neither directly involved in the Jasic struggle, nor were they working together at the time of their arrests, leaving open the question of why they were targeted. In late March, Wei Zhili, an editor of the labour news portal ‘New Generation’ (新生代) and an activist for the rights of migrant workers affected by pneumoconiosis, was picked up by the police (see Zheng Churan’s essay in this issue). Another two editors of the same platform also appear to be in trouble: Ke Chengbing, who at the moment of writing is still reported missing, and Yang Zhengjun, who was placed under residential surveillance in February. In this case, detention appears connected to these activists’ support for migrant workers, who in late 2018 protested against the Shenzhen government and demanded compensation for having contracted pneumoconiosis, a deadly labour-related disease. In late March, the local authorities stopped a group of about one hundred pneumoconiosis workers from Hunan who were planning on travelling to Shenzhen to express solidarity with Wei Zhili. KL

(Sources: China Labour Bulletin; Hong Kong Free Press 1; Hong Kong Free Press 2; South China Morning Post 1; South China Morning Post 2; The New York Times)

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